I love Los Angeles so much. There is so much to do here and see year round…and I've certainly discovered more things to do after having kids. We get emails and messages asking for suggestions on what to do with kids when visiting Los Angeles, so here are some of my favorites in no particular order. Please keep in mind, I do live on the East side, so this is skewed towards the East side of the city. A West sider might have additional suggestions and if you do, please share them in the comments!
Bob Baker Marionette Theater – For the past 50 years, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater has been putting on shows for kids and people of all ages. The charming and historical theater brings me back to a simple time and allows us to see the magic of something real and tangible (which is so different than all the technologies kids are used to these days). There are shows on weekdays and weekends which last about 45 minutes and tickets are $15/each. After the show, you get escorted into a side room where you can enjoy ice cream in those old-fashioned plastic cups with wooden spoons…all adding to the charm of the experience.
The Splash Pad at Grand Park – On a hot summer day, this is one of my favorite (free!) places to take our kids. Put them in bathing suits and let them run around in the splash pad till their heart's content. It's easy to watch them while you hang out nearby sipping on an iced latte from the Starbucks that's right next to the splash pad. Tip: Park in the The Music Center lot across the street. And, if you want to grab lunch after, Little Tokyo isn't too far away and has great little spots to explore.
Smorgasburg — On Sundays, this area of Downtown LA is filled with food vendors of all kinds. From wood fired pizza and garlic shrimp to Hong Kong waffles and ice cream. It's a foodie lover's dream. It's one of those places that you should only take your kids if they are A) good walkers or B) are good with sitting in strollers. There's a lot of walking and a lot of waiting in line for food, so they need to be at an age where they can either stay still (for a bit) or be able to stand and walk on their own. I suggest going early before 11am before the lines get long, the seats get filled, and it gets too hot. We love it there but have had some times when we're all just hot and tired and need to leave because we came at a time that was too busy and not as fun for kids.
LACMA – The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a great place to go when you want an activity with some culture but you don't want to feel trapped in a museum where your kids might not have anything to do but touch all the things they aren't allowed to touch. Since there are a few buildings to go in and out of, there is a nice segue outdoors that helps break up the exhibits. Through their NexGen program, kids under 17 get free membership and can take one adult with them anytime they go. There are also a ton of family events and art classes for kids available, too.
Hollywood Farmer's Market — On Sundays, this market is filled with plenty of fresh fruit, produce, bread, fish, and pasta vendors as you might expect from most farmer's markets. But what makes this market extra fun for my family are the kid-friendly vendors like the balloon guy, a face painter, and Eddie, who plays Reggae kids' songs. They are fun breaks to take between sampling fresh fruit and grabbing Thai pancakes on the go.
Petersen Automotive Museum – Cars are cool and seeing all kinds of cars is even cooler. With vintage cars of all kinds and really unique cars from movies or driven by celebrities, it was like going back in time.
Zimmer Children's Museum Art Crawl — The Zimmer Museum is an amazing space filled with tons of sensory exhibits, rooms, and areas to play and learn for kids of all ages. I've been there a few times, and one very different and fun part is the Art Crawl. Great for a birthday party or big group, kids are allowed to paint on the floors and walls and basically just get as messy as they want. We went with some of the Fashion Mamas and had a blast.
Echo Park Lake — This lake was revitalized only a few years ago, and it's a beautiful spot to have a picnic and paddle boat around. We'll bring a blanket, bubbles, and grab food from Beacon (right next to the Boat House) for lunch.
Santa Monica Pier — This is an obvious tourist destination but still so fun if you're okay with spending money on funnel cake and rides and games to win giant stuffed animals. Kids love it, and it's closer and less expensive than Disneyland!
Huntingdon Gardens — Huntingdon Gardens is a massive garden in Pasadena that offers a mix of culture and a TON of space for kids to run around and explore. We'll go there randomly on a Saturday or make a trip for one of their seasonal events like Chinese New Year, Halloween, or the Christmas light show.
Underwood Family Farms — This is not in Los Angeles, but an hour or so outside of the city. Take a little road trip to this pretty farm for summer strawberry picking or for fall pumpkin patches. They have a ton of events throughout the year and you can check what types of produce or vegetables are available for picking based on the time of year right here.
Those are some of my favorites, but I'd love to hear more if you have any other spots you love with and for kids! Tell me in the comments below!